Newspaper article Daily Examiner (Grafton, Australia)

Parents Are Angry at Long Delays for Help; Children Waiting a Year for Therapy

Newspaper article Daily Examiner (Grafton, Australia)

Parents Are Angry at Long Delays for Help; Children Waiting a Year for Therapy

Article excerpt

WAITING times of up to 12 months for speech and occupational therapy for children in the public health system have parents and medical practitioners up in arms.

One mother with a four-year-old in need of speech assessment said staff at the Community Health Service at Grafton Base Hospital told her there was a waiting time of 12 months for speech therapy and six months for occupation therapy (OT) because a staff member had left.

"The person there told me the reason was that they were down a staff member and 'Crawford' (North Coast Area Health Service chief executive Chris Crawford) was not advertising for a replacement," the woman, who did not want to be identified, said.

She said she was able to pay for a speech and occupational therapy assessment in the private system but wondered about people who could not afford this.

A Grafton GP, Michael Harding, said he could not confirm the reason behind the long waiting times but said he was aware of the problem.

"Basically we write the referrals up for people who come in, then they come back and say they can't get in for six months or so," Dr Harding said.

"In emergency cases we can organise an assessment with a local therapist working in the private system."

Dr Harding said it was important for the child's development to get the assessment done as early as possible so therapy could begin.

"There's good evidence to show that the earlier the therapy begins, the better the prognosis is for the child," he said.

South Grafton speech pathologist Tracey Ellaby confirmed she has been exceptionally busy in recent months and puts this down to the city's only other private speech pathologist taking maternity leave.

She said it is vital for children to be assessed early and then begin therapy.

"All the research says that the earlier the intervention the better," Ms Ellaby said. …

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